SHARE has submitted comments to the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Construction and Real Estate Sector Supplement advocating for more robust metrics on labour standards. The GRI is inviting public feedback on the draft document from all stakeholders until June 30, 2010.
SHARE’s submission urges the GRI to ensure that labour-related metrics are applied equally to property service workers, such as building cleaning, maintenance and security staff, in addition to construction workers who build the properties. The first draft of the Supplement draws heavily on examples of the labour risks faced by the construction sector. The construction sector faces significant labour risks – workplace health and safety, labour rights, and employment practices can be particularly challenging issues in construction. In some cases, large-scale real estate development can lead to a proliferation of unscrupulous labour brokers, day labour agencies and temporary foreign worker programs that put the rights and safety of construction workers at risk.
The GRI’s attention to this issue in the construction sector is crucial. In addition, metrics for labour rights should be similarly applied in the property service industry, where companies are also confronted with labour risks. As highlighted in a research report co-published by SHARE, property service workers are vulnerable to labour violations. For example, the cleaning sector is dominated by women, most of the work is performed at night, and workers face health and safety concerns related to the use of chemicals, repetitive strain injuries, and night work, among other things.
SHARE’s recommendations to the GRI are a product of our partnership with the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, which is advocating for improved labour standards in Canada’s real estate sector. Canadian companies are beginning to include certain labour and human rights criteria in their contractor pre-screening processes. However few companies publicly report their policies and procedures on labour rights in the property management sector, and there are few established metrics for measuring progress.
In its submission, SHARE suggests that the GRI provide guidance on these issues and to urge companies to:
- Describe company policies & procedures for pre-screening property service contractors
- Disclose the labour and human rights criteria applied during the contractor selection process for building services (such as freedom of association, hours of work, & non-discrimination)
- Discuss & disclose the health & safety risks of property service workers, in addition to the risks faced by construction workers, as these risks differ in important ways
- Explain company involvement in apprenticeship schemes
- Describe whether & how companies encourage workers to move from apprenticeships & temporary employment arrangements to regular, full-time employment
- Explain policies & procedures for identifying & addressing child and forced labour in the property service industry (both in developed & developing countries)
- Report on internal policies & procedures to monitor property service contractors’ compliance with labour & human rights standards, including enforcement procedures
SHARE and the Atkinson Foundation continue to meet with prominent Canadian property management companies to discuss the labour risks in the property service supply chain.